back to article MYSTERY as six people SURVIVE deadly VAMPIRE BAT BITES

Red-hot news on the science wires from Peru today, as it emerges that US federal boffins have identified six people who have apparently suffered no ill effects from being bitten by infected, blood-drinking VAMPIRE BATS: such attacks are typically fatal. "Our results open the door to the idea that there may be some type of …


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  1. jabuzz

    Vacination program

    Or the Peruvian government could start a pre-exposure immunization program in the effected communities, thereby reducing the risk to humans.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Vacination program

      The trouble with Rabies is that it's an extremely expensive vaccination, which requires a series of injections. I was looking at getting it for going on holiday recently to Africa. The nurse basically said it's going to cost you something like £500 (and that's with the NHS discount) as long as you're not going to be exposed in such a way that you don't notice, just make sure that you're covered by insurance for return to the UK/EU within 24hrs where you can get post exposure prophylaxis. This is basically the vaccine with a big dose of human immunoglobulin (IIRC). It's not a nice procedure, but it would be free, as it's an emergency.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Vacination program: Expensive? Depends where.

        I don't know why rabies vaccination should cost £500. discounts or no discounts.

        I've had it, here in India. Post exposure, that's five doses, at about Rs.300 each. That's about seventeen quid in total. It was a very-low-risk case, and there was no question of my needing the immunoglobin.

        Pre-exposure is only three japs. Rs.900. Not much more than a tenner. That additional £490 is some, err, "discount!"

        Where-ever a person is, a possible rabies infection is an emergency from that minute. The wound must be washed and disinfected according to instructions the internet will provide, and the necessary inoculations started the minute a person can get to a hospital. I was getting my first shot, at 1.00am, within an hour of being bitten by a stray cat, which I was as sure as can be was not infected anyway --- but it is a chance one just not take. You certainly do not wander to the airport, get on a plane, go home, visit the doctor...

        Not unless you want to die.

      2. Scroticus Canis Silver badge

        Re: Vaccination program

        Get it from a vet, much, much cheaper and probably just as good!!

      3. Scroticus Canis Silver badge

        Re: Vacination program

        Get your vaccination (note spelling) from a vet, much, much cheaper. By the by, I suffered the old school vaccination treatment when I was 10 years old; 21 daily 10cc jabs into abdominal muscle bundle, very painful. If symptoms developed they would have paralysed me with curare and put me into an iron lung for the duration. Brain damage was always possible but hey spent 35 years in IT!!!

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Vacination program

        The vaccination is not available on the NHS so you will have pay for a course of the vaccine, either at your GP surgery or at a travel clinic. The price for the complete course of three doses ranges from £120 to £150.

        1. No, I will not fix your computer

          Re: Vacination program

          They won't give you the vaccine unless you have a risky job (bat worker) or going to an "high or medium risk" country on their list if it's purely elective, you have to go private, hence the £500 cost, so if you're going to a country with a low risk but still want the jab, when you go to the GP remember to tell them the "correct country" you're goin to.

          On a similar (IT related) vein, Virgin would only unlock a mobile for free if you were going to a country with no Virgin mobile coverage (e.g Seyshells), I "went there" a couple of times with different phones.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Vacination program

      I'm not sure the rabies vaccine is all that effective. I believe the vaccine pretty much guarantees that if you're infected then you can be vaccinated again (post infection) and this will work. As well as being given longer period of time between bite and the post-infection vaccination becoming ineffective.

      Otherwise you've got a short window between being bitten and getting the vaccine, and even then I don't think it's 100% effective. So you'd need a decent medical infrastructure, which is harder.

      Once you get the symptoms, you're pretty much dead.

      I seem to remember reading about a French woman in the 1920s who survived, and there was that American teenager a couple of years ago who was bitten by a bat in church and didn't tell anyone. Her doctor decided to try every drug he could think of, plus chilling her down and inducing a coma and she survived with only major brain damage. Although she seems to have made an impressive recovery. I watched a documentary where they were trying the same techniques, and it looked like failing.

      1. Ramiro

        Re: Vacination program

        There was one guy that survived in Brazil a couple of years ago, also.

        I just checked it out, it was a teenage boy, he spent four months in the ICU in an induced coma. No joke, eh?. It says here that he was only the third person ever to have survived after the symptoms of rabies had appeared.

        He was a normal boy, but after his "recovery" he looked like he had cerebral palsy. Again, this disease is no joke. It was also caused by a bat bite.

        Don't mess around with vampire bats.

        1. Anonymous Coward/2.0

          Re: Vacination program

          > Don't mess around with vampire bats.

          Don't mess with *any* bat unless you are wearing protection. Bats in this country carry rabies. A bat worker in Scotland died from rabies a few years ago. He was bitten by an infected Daubenton's Bat while he was handling the bat. The advice these days is a) don't touch a bat if you don't know what you are doing and b) if you must touch a bat wear gloves,

          1. IronSteve

            Re: Vacination program

            I agree, just say fangs but no fangs

    3. Lee Dowling Silver badge

      Re: Vacination program

      For a short time.

      Immunisation is not a cure-all. It really isn't. And immunisation proves this by requiring "boosters" and doctors still giving treatment even if you are immunised. All immunisation does is expose you to something VERY SIMILAR to the thing they don't want you to catch, but without the part that makes you ill, and hope that you build suitable antibodies to combat that over time. So when you find the "real" virus in your blood, your body has a blueprint ready for how to cope with it.

      Flu vaccines, for instance, are becoming regarded as ineffective against the latest flus and do not provide any guarantee that you won't get even the flus they do immunise against.

      All mass-immunisation would do in this case is force the virus to mutate even faster than it would naturally, because it would have no suitable "hosts" for its current incarnation and any mutation would likely survive because it's NOT immunised against. And then you're back to square one after having spent billions.

      Rabies is also zoonotic, meaning it passes between animals so you have greater chance of successful mutations and future reinfection, and complete immunisation is impossible.

      How effective is immunisation?

      "After vaccination campaigns throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the WHO certified the eradication of smallpox in 1979.[3] Smallpox is one of two infectious diseases to have been eradicated, the other being rinderpest, which was declared eradicated in 2011."

      Two. Thirty years apart. After billions spent and decades of research and immunisation. How old is smallpox? About 10,000 years old.

      How long have we been trying to cure rabies? Since 1885 or before.

      Immunisation is only "the answer" when something is prevalent, easily spread, devastating, and you're willing to spend billions on it. Rabies isn't. Smallpox **killed** hundreds of millions in the 20th century. Rabies affected a few million, most of whom sought treatment early enough to survive. It's just not enough of a priority to bother about. Just keep away from dogs (97% of rabies cases from dog bites) if you can.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Vacination program

        "is force the virus to mutate even faster than it would naturally,"

        This is nonsense. The virus will mutate at the same rate but the variants will become dominant if they are successful. The virus isn't AWARE.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Vacination program

          "The virus will mutate at the same rate but the variants will become dominant if they are successful."

          I think the point is that an immunization program creates an evolutionary pressure which allows a variant to become dominant. Without the program a "super rabies" virus has no actual advantage and so does not spread through the population. Once its competitors are being eliminated by the program this theoretical virus will gradually spread as it breeds into the newly-available vector space (ie, the villagers) while non-super rabies is blocked.

          On the other hand: pitchforks and torches. No vampire has immunity to that! Or was that Frankenstein?

          1. Chemist

            Re: Vacination program

            The point is that the virus will not MUTATE any FASTER - it will be more successful by default.

            Incidentally the mutations may make the virus LESS virulent - might be more

  2. Grikath Silver badge


    Did they check the survivors and bats for glitter and sparkles?

    Inquiring minds want to know....

    But seriously...

    High occurence of lethal viral pathogen in a host with a high likelyhood of considerable inbreeding, relatively short generation-cycle and a resultant highly-selective environment.

    Resistence against the pathogen is bound to appear sooner or later, or else the host population will simply die out. This goes across the range from bacteria to ..well... us.

    Now the interesting bit will be to see exactly *which* mechanism was developed to create such effective antibodies, and to see whether it can be copied in some way to help us poor people who live in an area where rabies is *not* common, and the biological environment is rather the reverse of the above, so that the occurrence of a natural resistence to this particular nasty is somewhat less than likely.

    1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

      'king Darwin!

      ""Our results open the door to the idea that there may be some type of natural resistance or enhanced immune response in certain communities regularly exposed to the disease,""

      Damn that evolution business, it will ruin the film industry.

      (but not in the West where we are informed we 'need' to throw anti-bacterial crap over everything)

  3. Chemist

    There is almost always sufficient biological variation.. an outbred population to allow for some survival from most infectious diseases. People with mutant CCR5 chemokine receptors (from memory) are resistant to some strains of AIDS for example. It may be true that anyone showing the symptoms of rabies from these bats will die but how many are exposed and never develop clinical disease ?

    1. Richard Wharram

      Re: There is almost always sufficient biological variation..

      That's evolution's way. Disease develops and the 90% of population who aren't resistant die off leaving the remaining 10% to re-populate.

      In this day and age you aren't likely to get many people who are happy to go nature's way on these things. You volunteer if you want. I'll take my chances on Western medicine thanks all the same.

      1. Chemist

        Re: There is almost always sufficient biological variation..

        "You volunteer if you want"

        What on earth made you think I'd want to volunteer ?

        I've spent my entire working life searching for treatments for diseases. What I posted is still relevant however to understanding the nature of infectious diseases.

        1. Chemist

          Re: There is almost always sufficient biological variation..

          and indeed why these people might have survived bat bites

        2. Richard Wharram

          Re: There is almost always sufficient biological variation..

          "What on earth made you think I'd want to volunteer ?"

          Nothing really, It was flippancy inspired by this:

          "There is almost always sufficient biological variation..

 an outbred population to allow for some survival from most infectious diseases"

  4. lawndart

    Surviving vampire bat bites

    Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

  5. JimC Silver badge

    UK has Strong Border Controls

    If only... The UK's biosecurity is pathetic and getting worse.

  6. Triggerfish


    I may be out of date but when I had my jabs there was no vaccination as such, more like a prophylatic it just bought you and extra 24 hours or so to go and get a course of treatment, and meant you didnt get injected directly into the stomach.

    Its not cheap for the jabs as well, I paid nothing but an admin fee on the NHS because my doc was cool and knew the loophole to do it, the other half didnt get the jabs because it was going to cost a couple of hundred through her doc.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Vaccines, Pre-exposure and Post-exposure

      There is no vaccine that means, oh fine, been bitten by a mad dog but I got the shots so I can forget it.

      Pre-exposure course is three jabs.

      Post-exposure course begins with immunoglobin, if the risk is sufficient (and if it is available: some countries have a problems that) and then there are five shots of the vaccine.

      If you have already had the pre-exposure...

      Post exposure is just three more shots.

      I'm not a doctor, I have no medical qualifications, but I live in a country where there is rabies, and I have experience of getting vaccinated. Where appropriate, people should get proper advice and research authoritative sources on this: It is a matter of life or death.

  7. nemenator

    Is there a AGW angle here please? Is Global Warming responsible for UNNATURAL ANTIBODY ACTIVITY?

  8. Tom 13


    Haven't a very, very small number of people ALWAYS survived rabies? I seem to recall that from my very, very old reading about Pasteur and his work. Problem is it is such a small percentage. And isn't there a Kirk-era Star Trek episode about the folly of making such assumptions when you find a resistant population?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Very small number

      No. Like one or two ever. Which I don't think amounts to "a small number ALWAYS." I don't think it even qualifies as a percentage.

      Somewhere there is a woman who walked out of a hospital, fit, after confirmed rabies. Doctors have been dreaming about contacting her ever since, but she didn't want to stop and help them find out why she survived.

      I don't know how many have been "cured" by the extreme treatment of putting a sufferer into a deep coma.

      I seem to remember something about some people who have the virus in their blood but don't develop the disease. Sorry: I can't remember.

      To all intents and purposes, and certainly the only realistic way of thinking about oneself and the rabies risk, if likely to be be subject to it, is... Rabies means death.

  9. Pirate Dave


    Are they sure these people "survived" rabies? They could be undead now and, hence, unaffected by diseases lethal to mortals.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Survivors

      Absolutely!, did they check they had reflections in mirrors?, did they give them some garlic bread or a crucifix?

    2. Refugee from Windows

      Re: Survivors

      It is likely that the rabies infection had become "attenuated" to some degree whilst in the bat, the same sort of process used in vaccination.

  10. Uncle Siggy

    Once bitten...

    Well boys, we better batten down the hatches, hadn't we?

  11. Triggerfish

    Vaccination programs a question

    Please correct me if I am wrong but wouldn't trying to vaccinate against rabies be almost impossible because it effects all mammals with the same strain?

    Small pox as far as I know only effects humans so you can wipe it out, but rabies would require vaccinating every mammal on the planet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Vaccination programs a question

      You can vaccinate yourself.

      You can also vaccinate your cats and dogs.

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: Vaccination programs a question

        I'm not sure I understand your reply, what about the other x amount of mammalian species?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: the other x amount of mammalian species?

          If they live with you, get them vaccinated.

          No, I don't think it can be eradicated --- we can only protect ourselves.

  12. Andus McCoatover


    Really??? Was that named by a writer of a Dr. Who episode???

    1. Quinch
      IT Angle

      Re: Draculin???

      It's even less of a stretch between the two, once you consider the origins of the vampire myth - namely rabies symptoms.

      Both are contracted by bites - I'm not sure how widespread blood-sucking bats are across the globe, but it dovetails nicely with the traditional vampiric ability to transform into flying rats {the featherless kind}.

      Rabies' scientific name is hydrophobia - a quite literal fear of water that usually comes from the victim's inability to swallow. Especially holy water, as the local godbothering institutions quickly took out a "solution for repelling hemo-oriented entities" patent.

      Aversion to sunlight, which while it doesn't quite turn the rabies victims to dust, the photosensitivity would probably make them wish it did.

      And of course, the massive drooling combined with the aforementioned difficulty to swallow which gave rise to the iconic showing of the fangs.

      Or maybe Count Dracula was just patient zero...

  13. Anonymous Coward

    So, forgive my ignorance here, but all I know about rabies has been picked up from tabloid headlines and Hammer Horror films, over the years...

    * Is it true that when you have rabies you die of dehydration, because you develop a terror of water? [Seems unlikely, as you could be put on a drip, but I've seen that cliche in several old films]

    * Do you froth at the mouth?

    * Does the vaccination involve a hideously painful ring of injections into the stomach?

    Debunking answers on a postcard, please.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I believe that antipathy to water can be a symptom, but no, you don't die of that, you die as a side effect of the battle between your immune system and a virus which starts serious work when it reaches your brain.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sorry, PS...

      No, the vaccinations are not painful, and are given in the arm. The area might ache for a few minutes, but was over by the time I got back into my car to drive home.

      I am not sure (Google will be) but I think that, in serious risk cases, the immunoglobin (or/and the vaccine?) is injected around the wound. At the time, you probably have a nasty dog bite[s], so these injections are probably the least painful thing going on.

      Sorry ...I'm out of postcards!

  14. disgruntled yank Silver badge


    Back in the 1980s, a Marine out hunting in Quantico, Virginia, contracted rabies from a raccoon he had found--there are a lot of rabid raccoons in this area. He was in a bad way for weeks, but to everyone's surprise did survive, and as I recall the story made a full recovery.

  15. Martin Budden

    avoid at all costs

    While working in a hospital in Kenya I saw a patient die of rabies. It was a really Really REALLY unpleasant way to go.

  16. Nissemus

    What does "I think we all know what's happening here" mean?

    'Cos I don't.

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